Lions notes: Campbell appreciates ownership’s support; Vaitai unlikely to return in 2022

Detroit News

Allen Park — Earlier this week, Detroit Lions owner Sheila Hamp voiced her support for coach Dan Campbell and general Brad Holmes. And while that message had already been made behind closed doors, Campbell appreciated his boss’ public statement.

“She’s told me that’s how she feels, so I’m not surprised by it,” Campbell said Friday. “But I appreciate it. She didn’t have to do that. And certainly, I appreciate that and I know that we have her support. I don’t take that for granted. I don’t take it lightly either. I know that that’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. It’s not easy on anybody.”

Campbell also noted that having that public backing from Hamp does nothing to lessen the urgency to start having more success on the field.

“Look, I’m not blind to any of this,” Campbell said. “I appreciate that (support), but I also know the reality. I mean, we’ve got to win. There’s still urgency here. That’s never changed. We know what kind of business we’re in. I know what kind of business I’m in and I know that the patience only goes so long. We’re trying to get one (win) this week and then, after that takes place, then you go get the next one.

“It’s all about winning. We’re not trying to kick the can down the road. We’re not trying to say any of that. We’ve got a team here that I know can win and it’s my job to get them there.”

Through his first 23 games as Detroit’s coach, Campbell has a 4-18-1 record.

Schematic marriage in secondary

As part of Detroit’s schematic adjustments on defense implemented following the team’s bye week, the Lions have attempted to marry the different, contrasting playing styles of cornerbacks Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah into a singular coverage approach.

“We’re able to let Amani play more visual, something that he’s really, really good at, and you have to make sure you tweak it, but tweak it in a right way to where it doesn’t affect the whole defense,” coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “Then allow Jeff to be in more man(-to-man) situations, which he’s really good at. So, there’s not too many defenses you can have zone and man, but there are some and you have to make sure that everybody is on the same page when you do things like that.”

Secondary coach and passing game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant said the blending of zone and man concepts hasn’t been easy, but it’s important to find ways to put players in positions to best utilize their skill sets.

“It is difficult because not only do you have to make the defense for them, but also for the (safeties) that may be coming in behind them,” Pleasant said. “But that’s what we’re paid to do. That’s our job. Our job is to identify the talent, it’s to correct it and put it in a position to have success. Maybe it’s taken us longer than all of us would have liked, but I think we’re trending in the correct direction in these last couple of weeks.”

The Lions are coming off their best defensive performance of the season and it was also a rebound outing for Oruwariye, two weeks after he had been benched.

“He was very professional throughout it all, had a very good bounce back,” Pleasant said. “Hopefully he’ll be able to again be a little bit better — 1% better — and continue to progress each game.”

Dwindling hope

Before the start of the season, the Lions lost starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a back injury that required surgery. And while no timetable on his recovery had previously been provided, Campbell confirmed it’s looking unlikely the offensive lineman will see the field this season.

“He’s doing well,” Campbell said. “I would say that (playing in 2022) would be very slim to none as of right now, but the surgery went well and he’s doing great. That’s one of those long-term (injuries). If you’re asking me right now, I’d say it would be hard to get him back.”

Vaitai is in his third season of a five-year contract signed ahead of the 2020 season. Injuries have limited him to just 25 starts during his time with the franchise. This offseason, the team faces a decision on whether to retain him. He’s set to carry an $11.2 million cap hit, while his release would clear nearly $8 million off the books.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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